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Have You Got Your Flying Car Yet? Personal Flying Automobiles in 2021

Flying BMW car Image by Paul Birman from Pixabay.
Image by Paul Birman from Pixabay

It's 2021 and, with the pace of technology, you're ready to upgrade to a second generation flying car. Unfortunately a trip to your local car dealer doesn't go as planned because flying cars in 2021 still aren't a thing.

One wonders, if Elon Musk wasn't so focused on space travel, would we have flying Tesla cars by now? Hopefully that may be his next big push considering he's pretty close to fully self driving cars - technology that is probably essential if flying cars are to work in urban environments.

When I last checked in on the state of flying car development in my post from 2017, Revisiting the 'Flying Car' - How Close Are We? the focus was very much on drone/quadcopter configurations, with nothing you could really call a 'car'.

Unfortunately we haven't really progressed from there. The closest we have to a consumer model flying car is the Jetson One, which was launched in October of this year. Made by Swedish company, Jetson, it's a single person, electric VTOL craft that's small enough to fit in your driveway.

The Jetson One VTOL Personal Aircraft.
The Jetson One.

From what I understand, if you can fly a camera drone (like a DJI), then flying a Jetson One isn't that much of a stretch. It has similar safety features built in where it will just hover, hands free, as well as obstacle avoidance. Which hopefully means there is no way to start blending pedestrians with the eight propellers located at about waist height on each corner of the craft.

The company is taking orders right now... so get in quick! (though 2022's production run is already sold out).

While the Jetson One is a step forward in some kind of flying car, you're still not taking the family through the Macdonald's drive through in one - and not just for the lack of seating.

If a true flying car is to be realized i.e. one that looks more like a car and less like an airplane or quadcopter, we need to look for alternatives to exposed propeller blades or high temperature jet turbines. Blending or cooking pedestrians is just not something you want your flying car to do.

Jetoptera's Bladeless Air Thruster System.
Jetoptera's Bladeless Air Thruster System.
Jetoptera is an aviation company developing a 'bladeless' air propulsion system that looks promising. It's a fully enclosed unit, with no external moving parts, and works by forcing the surrounding air through the front to create thrust out the back.

So far they've only demonstrated their proof of concept on large scale VTOL prototype craft that, unfortunately, still look more like airplanes than cars. However, if the bladeless propulsion system could be developed for a more 'car like' craft then it might just be the ticket to an urban friendly vehicle.

What has really caught my eye is the first test flight of CycloTech's CycloRotor based craft which reimagines an old technology in a new configuration. Although, basically a quadcopter, the blades are housed in a 'wheel' like configuration that can use the surrounding air to create thrust at any angle.

CycloTech's CycloRotor Craft.
CycloTech's CycloRotor Craft.
No doubt you saw this craft and, like me, thought, why can't those blade housings double as car wheels? It's not a totally ridiculous idea, as the Micro Air Vehicle Lab from the University of Maryland demonstrated a similarly configured concept vehicle that does use the blades as wheels back in 2017.

While you couldn't just attach CycloRotors to you're average family car, one can imagine an urban friendly vehicle that looks more like a car with that propulsion system. It's just a case of building CycloRotors with enough thrust to lift a family of four inside a car like craft.

Probably easier said than done but more likely to be a vehicle you'll take for a quick trip to the shops.

I'm hopeful we'll see flying cars like those science fiction promised us so long ago in my lifetime. Though it's going to take a breakthrough in antigravity systems to really see some accelerated progress.


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